An Article From a No-Till Farmer

Manure Injection Tool Minimizes Soil Disturbance

An Iowa no-till farmer has developed a new tool that could help growers apply manure to fields without moving too much residue. Injecting manure into soils with heavy cornstalk residue has long been a challenge for Phil Reed, an Iowa-based no-tiller.

Frustrated with available technology, the farmer and pork producer finally decided to design his own system — one that would slice through heavy crop residue in a manner compatible with no-till priorities.

The result is a vertical system that delivers high-speed, low-draft injection in high-residue environments.

The idea surfaced 2 years ago when Reed — a corn-and-soybean producer who also custom feeds 30,000 hogs annually — thought about the concept of pushing a coulter into the soil to create a reception void for liquid manure.

A no-till farmer since 1985, Reed found it difficult to find a tool that would cut through heavy residue and seal the slot while leaving enough residue on the soil surface — and doing this with a machine that was both durable and affordable.

In late 2010, a prototype Reed developed hit the fields around Washington, Iowa, and commercial units are now available.

Coulter Leads Way

Reed’s VTI — Vertical Till Injector — clamps onto a toolbar mounted to the back of the liquid-manure wagon. Each row-unit has a 22-inch, eight-wave notched blade to cut through residue, lift the soil and splay it apart.

A slanted hose from the tank places the manure 6 to 8 inches beneath the soil surface. Then, adjustable 18- or 20-inch containment wheels at the back of each row unit catch the displaced soil and residue to lay it back over the top of the furrow.

“Soil disturbance is about the same as you’d have with a no-till planter,” says the no-till farmer. “But the most important thing is the unit’s ability to go through any type of residue. We’ve run it in heavy cornstalks and CRP, and we’ve run it in 2 inches of frost and in the snow, and we’ve never plugged it. It’s exceeded my expectations.”

Unlike a shank-based system, all of the VTI components that touch the ground rotate to reduce draft dramatically, Reed says. Since there’s nothing to drag, fuel usage is decreased and application time is reduced because it’s possible to operate at higher speeds. Reed says he’s run the VTI from 4 to 16 mph, with excellent performance in that range.

Down Pressure For Residue

Higher speeds, like heavier residue conditions, require greater down pressure to maintain depth. Normally, 800 to 1,200 PSI is adequate for all conditions, but pressure can be increased up to 2,500 pounds and can be controlled from the tractor cab as weight is hydraulically transferred from the tank to the toolbar, Reed says.

The unit is built to handle high down pressure. Each C spring is rated at 10,000 pounds and absorbs shock energy away from a 2-inch shaft that has heavy-duty, triple-seal trunnion bearings.

The VTI can apply up to 10,000 gallons per acre. In his experience, Reed applied 6,000 gallons per acre at 14 mph in soil with a 2-inch frost depth last December.

The VTI can be customized with different blades, row spacing, and adaptability for different bar sizes. Thirty-inch rows are standard, with four-, five-, six- and eight-row units available.

The eight-wave notched standard blade was selected for its good performance in a variety of conditions and, Reed says, would be his choice for most situations. For high-gallon, low-speed application — or for applications in extremely tight soils — more aggressive blades are available. Blades can be switched out by simply removing a nut and washer.

Most sizes of standard liquid-manure tanks can be accommodated. Although the standard mounting is conducted by clamping to a 6-by-4-inch bar, the unit can be adapted to other bar sizes.

Generally, Reed applies manure between rows. If the VTI is used with a guidance system, a no-tiller can plant precisely over the top of the injection strip if the manure has been applied in the fall, he points out.

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